- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2009

CIA Director Leon E. Panetta on Monday supported the agency’s interrogation methods on accused terrorists following the Sept. 11 attacks, as more documents on the issue are being made public.

“This much is clear: The CIA obtained intelligence from high-value detainees when inside information on al Qaeda was in short supply,” Mr. Panetta said in a memo to employees. “The use of enhanced interrogation techniques, begun when our country was responding to the horrors of September 11th, ended in January.”

The memo is the second in four months in which Mr. Penetta has tried to reassure the agency’s estimated 20,000 employees amid controversy about water-boarding and other advanced interrogation techniques. In May, he told them to “ignore the noise” surrounding what the agency told Congress about the issue several years ago.

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“My primary interest — when it comes to a program that no longer exists — is to stand up for those officers who did what their country asked and who followed the legal guidance they were given,” he said Monday. “The agency sought and received multiple written assurances that its methods were lawful. … I am very proud of what you do here and abroad to protect the United States.”

The documents are being released in response to a court order and are related to CIA interrogation techniques that ended when President Obama appointed Mr. Panetta to run the agency. Among the documents are a 2004 report from the CIA’s Office of Inspector General and papers that discuss the value of intelligence acquired from high-level detainees.

Mr. Panetta also used today’s memo to distance himself from more debate expected to follow.

“I make no judgments on the accuracy of the 2004 IG report or the various views expressed about it,” he wrote. “Nor am I eager to enter the debate, already politicized, over the ultimate utility of the agency’s past detention and interrogation effort.”

He also called the release of the documents an “old story” because interrogation practices already have been made public.

“The challenge is not the battles of yesterday, but those of today and tomorrow,” he said. “America is a nation at war.”

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